SAG ULB Agreement in 2012 – Issues and Answers
Hello friends and welcome to EPISODE 18 of ACTORS TALK with me, I’m TOMMY G KENDRICK the producer and host of this program coming to you from Round Rock, TX. If you’re wondering where that is we’re just up Interstate 35 north of Austin, Texas which is not only the self-appointed LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, but it is also a veritable hot bed of independent filmmaking.
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Reason’s I’ve read online as to why producers should NOT become signatory to the ULB Agreement:
SAG Residuals Hotline Phone: 800-205-7716
PAYROLL INFORMATION FOR INDIE PRODUCTIONS (Some Suggestions):
SAG-AFTRA and SAGIndie
MISC LINKS OF INTEREST
Listed above just a few of the reasons I’ve run across in indie film forums and chat rooms about why a producer should NOT work with SAG (SAG-AFTRA is the new, merged actors union. The ULB is a SAG contract that will remain in force until it’s already established expiration date. New SAG-AFTRA agreements will then be negotiated.) especially on the ULB or Ultra Low Budget Agreement. The problem is that a number of those reasons are partially or wholly inaccurate.
Some of these ideas are kept alive by internet posts that often go back for years. Producers searching for current information assume that terms of some agreements no longer in existence are still in force, because they can still read it on an old blog or forum post. There is one site in particular (easily found with a Google search so I’m not interested in linking it here) that breaks down the ULB. That site has information that is in some parts incorrect, misunderstood and misinterpreted by information seekers.
Certainly not all of the information and perceptions about working with craft unions is wrong. SAG and AFTRA and now SAG-AFTRA were created by actors for the protection of actors. SAG-AFTRA is not tasked with protecting or promoting producer’s interests to the detriment of actors. So, no apologies here for rules about wages and working conditions established in the SAG-AFTRA agreements. Agreements. That’s an important word.
Union CONTRACTS or AGREEMENTS that we are discussing are legal instruments whose terms and conditions have been NEGOTIATED and AGREED TO by representatives of two parties – the ACTORS on one side and the PRODUCERS on the other – each negotiating for terms and conditions that best serve the interests of their constituents. ONLY when terms and conditions are AGREED to by both parties is the contract settled and put into force for an agreed upon term. Upon expiration of that term, negotiations begin again and the process repeats.
I mention that because often I get the impression that beginning producers or those predisposed to be negative about anything ‘union’ think that SAG or AFTRA has simply dictacted terms and conditions on a take it or leave it basis and that is not how the process works. Certainly once an agreement is reached, BOTH SIDES have responsibility to live up to the terms of the agreements as negotiated.
The Austin area is home to such indie films stalwarts as Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater whose lastest film, BERNIE starring JACK BLACK, SHIRLEY MACLAINE and MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY appears to be winding down its very successful theatrical run.
I think the film BERNIE may soon offer an interesting case study on how a very careful, limited theatrical release, was combined with a slow rollout to a modest number of theater screens – MAXIMIZING WORD OF MOUTH ADVERTISING to effect a very successful theatrical run that SHOULD nicely fuel all the ancillary income streams avilable – DVD SALES, REDBOX, VOD, iTunes, NetFlix Streaming and of course availability CABLE and SATELLITE systems.
I believe BERNIE was in just over 300 screens at its widest release – according to BOXOFFICEMOJO.COM – it is currently on 166 screens and box office gross of just over $7million dollars. Clearly that is a modest sum compared to some of the current block busters but is, I think, a good if not great number for a ‘little indie film’ that was produced on a modest budget of, I think around $5-6 Million dollars.
It will be interesting to see what happens with BERNIE during the coming awards season, and I really think Jack Black deserves consideration for a BEST ACTOR award from the Independent Spirit Awards and from the Motion Picture Academy and from SAG-AFTRA Awards, but we shall see how that plays out moving forward.
All that to say, if you’re in a location where BERNIE is still playing, support great indie filmmaking and go see it. Then buy the DVD because you’re tryly has a little work in this film and I can always use those RESIDUALS.
RESIDUALS. The discussion of actors’ residual income actually leads into some of what we’re discussing in this episode of ACTORS TALK with my guest, TRISH AVERY who currently serves as SAG-AFTRA Houston Local Executive Director. By the way, click the link if you’re confused about the difference between RESIDUALS and FOREIGN ROYALTIES.
Today’s episode is one that I have been hoping to do for some time because today we’re going to tackle the subject of the ULB. Many people listening will know what ULB stands for but since we have listeners literally around the globe let me explain that this ULB of which I speak is a low budget film contract offered to filmmakers by SAG or SCREEN ACTORS GUILD. ULB is short for ULTRA LOW BUDGET agreement.
Let’s be clear here, I am not a disinterested 3rd party when it comes to advising low budget producers to become signatory to the SAG-AFTRA agreeements. As a long time member of SAG and AFTRA and of course now the merged union SAG-AFTRA, I want more producers to avail themselves of these agreements because I want to work in some of those productions. That’s a no-brainer, right? I know that even though there are many fine and experienced non-SAG actors. But if a producer is looking for the most best actors available, the best actors will usually be members of SAG-AFTRA. Or they want to be.
In this episode you’ll hear discussion of specifics about the Ultra Low Budget Agreement, you’ll hear discussion of terms such as DISTRIBUTION ASSUMPTION AGREEMENT, RESIDUALS, CONSECUTIVE EMPLOYMENT, of how the SAG-AFTRA MERGER has or has not affected existing contracts, and we’ll try to address some OUTDATED and sometimes ERRONEOUS information about working with SAG-AFTRA actors – information that lives on forever on internet web sites and forums, sometimes long after the contract terms referenced in those posts and discussions have changed over time. In some cases the AGREEMENTS referenced have ceased to exist and have been replaced with the current crop of contract agreements.
Without further delay, let’s listen to my recent interview with SAG-AFTRA Houston local Executive Director, Trish Avery, recorded via Skype on July 2, 2012. We actually began our discussion talking a bit about state film incentives and about an advocacy group in Texas, the TXMPA before moving into discussion of SAG and SAG-AFTRA issues.
Trish Avery has been in the entertainment business for over 25 years and currently serves as SAG-AFTRA Houston Local Executive Director. She began her career as an actor and traveled in live performances throughout the southwest before becoming a popular commercial and industrial film actor for Fortune 500 clients.
Trish served as President of DFW SAG/AFTRA from 1992-96, representing Texas professional actors locally and in the national board rooms of both SAG and AFTRA. In 2003, she became the Manager of Broadcast and Strategic Alliances for eWomenNetwork and the Creative Director of eWomenPublishingNetwork where she discovered the unique challenges of small businesses and changing markets.
Trish Avery joined the staff of Screen Actors Guild in 2007 and currently serves a growing Texas SAG-AFTRA membership of over 2500. Committed to building a better future for media professionals in Texas, Trish is an active member of Women in Film and Television Houston, Women in Film.Dallas, SWAMP and Dallas Producers Association. Trish also serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Motion Picture Association (TXMPA).
Great resources for information about SAG-AFTRA contracts are the legacy SAG web site and the website SAGIndie.com. There you can actually download copies of all the SAG agreements currently in force.
Don’t overlook the SAGIndie FAQ which can clarify a lot of issues discussed in this podcast.
Here is a description of SAGIndie from their web site:
SAGIndie: A gentle and loving union between the hard working thespians of the world and the passionate filmmaking mavericks who buck the system. Since its formation in 1997, SAGIndie has been traveling to film festivals, trade shows and conventions spreading the word: Just because your film isn’t produced by a studio doesn’t mean you can’t use professional talent. In fact, input from indie producers continues to help SAG revise and improve its five low-budget agreements to make it even easier for filmmakers to use SAG actors, regardless of their budget. If you’re going to compete with the big boys you need all the help you can get. So go on, and take advantage of SAG’s vast pool of well-trained talent for your next project. They can always find their mark, pick up cues and in the end save you time and money.
SAGIndie is made possible by a grant from the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Industry Advancement & Cooperative Fund and the letter “R”.
Again my thanks to Trish Avery and to all the indie producers and directors and actors who responded to my call for questions for this episode, I appreciate all the input. Don’t forget to leave questions of comments on the toll free comment line or as a written comment at the bottom of the show notes. If you need clarification on anything we’ve discussed please let me know and I will seek clarification for you.
As we close this episode of ATP I want to thank previous interviewee MATT THOMPSON, director/producer of UNRAVELED a short film we shot earlier in the year as part of the 168 Film speed film competition. This past week I was blessed with a BEST ACTOR nomination for that project from the Experience Studios Short Film Contest for the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival.
So, congratulations to all the cast and crew who worked so hard and in making UNRAVELED. Filmmaking is truly a team effort. Very special thanks goes to Matt for having the courage as a first time filmmaker to pull the trigger and make UNRAVELED under the SAG Short Film Agreement. Otherwise I could not have participated and I would have missed out on this very welcome affirmation. Matt talks about his experience working with SAG in ACTORS TALK EPISODE 10.
Until next time, I hope to see you in the movies…God Bless you, this is Tommy G. Kendrick, so long…